My Shortest Tour

Bicycle tours come in all sizes, across the state, across the nation or around the world but some of the shorter ones can give as much pleasure as those covering multi-days and mega-miles. A new form of touring has popped up for those with limited time or abilities, the Sub-24 which is overnight or for a weekend. About the only constant is spending your nights someplace other than in your bed at home.

There's a concrete survey marker in a corner of my back yard that locates the exact center of a one mile square section of land. Cornerways across that marker is the Buck Thomas Park, the largest city park in the town where I live. It has eight softball diamonds, a football practice field and half a dozen soccer fields along with several picnic pavilions and acres of parking space. Out my back gate and twenty feet to the right puts me in the park. Being just over the fence, we can hear the screaming girls playing softball, yelling soccer coaches and school bands practicing on the football field; we can also hear most of the other activities. One Saturday morning last summer I was in the back yard and kept hearing music coming from the park. It would be Country/Western for a bit then Rock and Roll followed by New Orleans Jazz. I walked over to see what was going on.

They were having their annual Art, Music and Outdoor Events Festival. A covered stage was set up for the musicians, artists had booths displaying their wares and stores selling camping and outdoor equipment had their own section. There was a huge trailer-mounted aquarium where some guy was demonstrating how to use their brand of gear to catch fish. Various sizes of self-contained motorhomes displaying FMC and Good Sam Club badges were nestled side by side on the parking lot. Just past them was a motorcycle camping group and grouped around picnic tables on the grassy area just behind them was various tent camping groups. The Sierra Club was represented along with a backpacking club and a couple boy scout troops. I decided that bicycle camping should also have a presence. I loaded tent, sleeping bag and pad on my touring bike and joined them. While I was pitching my tent, someone mentioned that I should register my group so I'd get a free ticket to the BBQ dinner that evening. Everyone other than people with displays had to buy their dinner tickets.

People milled through the area, listening to the music, looking at the art and visiting with the various groups. A number of people stopped by to ask questions about bicycle touring and bikecamping. I answered the usual questions about how many gears on my bike, how far had I ever ridden and how fast could I go.

Twin lines formed to work their way past the tables piled with hundred of pounds of ribs that had been cooking all afternoon in a huge smoker that looked like a locomotive. With the ribs licked clean and Dempster Dumpsters piled high with dirty paper plates, most of the drive-in visitors departed for home. Coolers were opened and both the music and mood became far more mellow. The music stopped when it got dark and people began to filter away from the groups, heading for their tents by way of the line blue Fiberglas porta-potties. Before long snoring replaced conversation.

I was up before most people the next morning, walked to my house and had breakfast with my wife. After reading the Sunday funnies and whatever was of interest on the front page, I returned to strike camp. This easily qualified as my shortest tour, about 200 yards each way.

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Copyright 2006 by Jim Foreman